WORLD PREMIERE / Republic of Congo
Nzobi is the staging of a traditional healing practice, highlighting traditions of southern Congo and Brazzaville. Nzobi means Fetish in the Lari language called Munich. It names the ritual dance and also the religion and secret society that performs it.
Healers and assistants perform to seek healing, renewal, and protection; and also to celebrate their success and happiness when blessed with well-being. They dance to summon the spiritual essence of powerful ancestors, performing loketo, a rotating movement of the hips; moko, the throwing of the arms up and down; and malu footwork that establishes contact and resonance with the Earth. Dancers work as one with the drums, and the songs, an inherent part of every spiritual activity, tell of a journey, healing, and awakening.
For the Nzobi people, the spirit and physical worlds are separated by the thinnest of veils, and illness and discord are manifestations of unresolved spiritual matters. As Artistic Director and dancer Arnaud Loubayi tells us, “Nzobi was revealed to our ancestors in our spiritual system. In Africa we believe everything is spiritual first before materializing in the physical world. Nzobi is a part of the healing process of a society. When there is a birth, a disease, a problem, our Bantu ancestors used Nzobi to dance and pray: to heal, guide, protect people and make them warriors.” Only those initiated into the secret society can fully participate in the rituals, but outsiders often seek out society members to petition on their behalf.
Loubayi grew up dancing, and began dancing professionally in Brazzaville in 2003, touring with and choreographing for Ballet National of Congo and Ngoma za Kongo Dance Company. Loubayi’s choreography of Nzobi is a direct transmission of cultural heritage, presented here for the first time.
Gâta Bantu Dance Company was created in 2014 by Arnaud Loubayi and Arnold Balekita to spread awareness of Congolese culture through drumming and dance around the US and beyond, with the belief that dance is an art form that allows people from different backgrounds to come together and connect, fostering peace and understanding. Gâta Bantu aims to bring Africa to America, one dancer at a time.
July 6 & 7
Dance Origin: Brazzaville, Republic of Congo
Artistic Director/Choreographer: Arnaud Loubayi
Dancers: Josi Brown, Tiffany Brown, Makana Curtiss, LaKiesha Golden, Andoche Loubaki, Arnaud Loubayi
Musicians: Tommy Agarwal (ngoma), Arnold Balekita (ngoma), Aline Kouakoua (ngoma), Elie Mabanza (ngoma), Rocssy Mahania (ngoma), Kiazi Malonga (ngoma), Armel Mampouya (ngoma)
Photo: RJ Muna